Euyoung Hong
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Politics of Space, Social Economy of Space

Chung-Hwan Kho (Art Critic)

A Study of the Space of Han Pyeong . The space of han pyeong is filled with variety of objects, such as a fan, a light, cups, water bottles and food containers, most of which are made from plastic resources, and some other objects, including an abandoned chair, a drying rack, a ladder, steel rods and clear plastic slate-roof. These objects can, at first glance, be seen as useless things, but each of them certainly has its particular use in our everyday life. The space of han pyeong is packed with these objects, presenting the cramped condition of the space. An interesting point in the work is that these objects keep their balance by using natural dynamics, such as forces of gravity or tension without support by any adhesive materials. The balance seems fragile, yet compacted. It is also random, yet precise. This compacted and precise balance defuses a highly charged tension. This precisely constructed system of balance can easily be destroyed, when the position of a small object is changed or lightly touched. It is obvious that we cannot think of a space without the concept of money in the age of capitalism. Space is money; and money is space. For most people, who live in this day and age, having one’s own space is the matter of existence. People can be pushed out of Seoul or the metropolitan area if they cannot afford to have a minimum space of han pyeong. Although a person may find a tiny space with difficulty, it is mostly a temporary expedient, whereby the space is, at least, required to provide a self-contained living system for his or her life. It is related to the tension created by the thorough use of a small space. The intensity of tension is too strong to be easily destroyed by a least chance from the outside. Spaces are destroyed; people’s lives are collapsed; and their existence falls. This installation work presents a social and psychological symptom of spatiality, tension and anxiety, which can be experienced by people, who live in the life of temporary expedient.

Removal. Moving house became an ordinary course of event for the people who are always pushed. In these days, removal is considered one of professional business sectors, which provides a variety of special vans and vehicles. However, a 1,000 kg light truck still makes a certain connection with the idea of a pack for moving. Hong reconstructed a part of the load space of a 1,000kg light truck, transforming it into an aluminium structure and installed it on the wall like a picture frame with a hanging green mesh tarp on the structure. Inside the mesh tarp, a bundle of bricks, which seems a pack for moving, is covered with clear plastic sheet and a rubber band. Humanities in this age tells us about Maurice Blanchot’s the thought from outside and Gilles Deleuze’s nomadology. Related to these ideas, Hong’s installation work focuses on nomads in the age of capitalism, that is, the people who are pushed to the peripheries and have the idea of periphery, as well as the people who live against the established social and institutional systems or practice the writing of periphery or murmur to themselves. It emphasizes the ontology of the people who fall from human being to a mere thing in terms of the fetishism of capitalism and materialism.

(Un)balancing. The large street flower pots, which are installed in public spaces for the purpose of street renewal, are vertically stacked, such as a form of tower. The situation of two flower towers, which put their upper ends together and are stacked on the slanted platforms, can be easily seen as being balanced, but it actually gives us instability, owning to the slanted sides. At least, balance, which is appeared outwardly, potentially possesses unbalance; and stability contains instability. In other words, it is a unbalanced balance and an instable stability. This is somehow familiar. It evokes Baroque aesthetics that establishes a balance through unbalancing, the dialectic that synthesizes different points of view through the medium of contradiction, and the estrangement effect of the Avant-Garde that allows us to face the substance of familiar things. Hong appropriates these points and elements of aesthetic achievement for constructing the politics of space. In other words, Hong’s work focuses on the reality of the role of large flower pots in public space, which actually functions as a different institutional apparatus, rather than practicising urban renewal. Like a division between sidewalks and driveways, it can be understood as the symbol of prohibition, surveillance and visible and invisible lines that are made by a system or a regime. However, it is not considered seriously, because the line is changeable and flexible. For example, the line can deeply invade inside the sidewalks in order to push homeless people on the street. Hong’ work discusses about the organic and botanic proxemics of urban system.

Squeeze. Squeeze means to firmly press, manage to get into or through a restricted space, force out or by pressure and extort. Hong applies the idea of squeeze to the nature or a similar nature. Contemporary people exploit, press and force the nature by pressure. They even extort the nature for air purification, mental relaxation or decoration. (Pierre Bourdieu said that ornament is a crime.) For proving the return to nature or for testifying a seclusive life without any substance. Or for showing off the life. When there is nothing to exploit from the nature, it is squeezed at the corner. The flower pot is squeezed in the small space at the corner of the ceiling. The space seems enough for pens, rather than the planted flower pot. This installation work presents the places of others in capitalism, such as a corner, periphery and surplus. It provides a way of being or fatalism of things, which are abandoned and forgot by the fetishism of capitalism, commercializing the nature.

Constructed Landscape (three-dimensional work). A variety of bottles are densely arranged on the out-dated table. This table represents the perception of contemporary people’s own spaces, self-consciousness or a desire. Also, four long legs which sustain the old table can be related to the instable perception of space as well as that of the present. The pile of bottles on the table can be viewed as a similar nature such as a mountain or a forest. The edges of the table draw a horizontal line, where the sky and the mountain meet. At large, the colour composed of green and brown bottles resembles the nature. It also satirizes the reality, in which the nature is easily replaced by the artificial skyline constructed by building forests.Only the pile of bottles evokes forest and building. Contemporary art is often called the technique of arrangement and display. Pragmatics supports the technique. It means that once arrangement and display are changed, the meaning is necessarily changed too. A meaning is determined in a context. It is certainly related to Roland Barthes’s idea, in which he argues that everything occurs in a text; therefore, there exists nothing outside the text. In Hong’s work, a table is changed into a space; bottles become a forest. An apartment complex becomes a mountain or the nature. It becomes the landscape of capitalism, fetishism and desire, which imitates and appropriates the actual.

Constructed Landscape (two-dimensional work). Capitalist fetishism commercializes the nature and replaces it by an artificial nature, such as building forests and an apartment complex. Contemporary people consume this replaced and commercialized nature. These consumer goods include pleasure and recreation resorts, which are almost close to the original form of nature. Some of them are transferred into images, such as National Geographic or a postcard. The images of nature are frequently consumed. An example can be found in the construction site wall. Many different images are used for covering the construction site wall. A typical case is the image of nature. In a way, the image of nature is contrasted in order to hide the dark side of capitalism, such as profit fights in the reconstruction business and the terrible conditions of displaced people. Here, when the amount of profits or interests is larger and the situation of the residents is more serious, the images of nature should be shown more vivid and realistic. The politics of image and the industry of dream necessarily work well in the system.Hong’s work presents an image of forest. When we look at closely, a collaged landscape, which is composed of parts of forest images, can be found. When looking more closely, buildings are hidden behind the images. The images of buildings are also edited and collaged. On the surface, it can be seen as a forest, but the images of nature are mixed with the images of buildings or the desire of capitalism. Behind the image of nature, the construction site wall hides the dark side of capitalism.

A Space Made by Thirty Water Containers. 30 white plastic water containers draw a triangular space, by following the edge lines. The installation of water containers may be created based on the idea of a certain kind of living art and everyday objects, such as an expedient barrier for preventing illegal parking. This presents the desire of contemporary people’s own space as well as a symbol of the desire of capitalism. This triangular space is seen as an edge space, the space of odds and ends and the surplus of space. A question is asked. Why does this work require thirty water containers? It reminds us of the Sewol Ferry disaster in South Korea in April, 2014, particularly a person who rescued 30 students or 30 innocent students who had a narrow escape from death. In this installation work, Hong uses the medium of space and appropriates the places of others in capitalism, which are related to the idea of edge, periphery and surplus. This work provides a new principle of space use, which is differentiated from the desire of capitalism. According to Georges Bataille, capitalism pushes the things that are economically infeasible to the peripheries. These things are called surpluses. These surpluses have a trauma, which is caused by the exclusive logic of capitalism and repressive desire; and they are called for testifying the trauma. In the work, 30 white water containers testify the death of the innocent students.

Michel Foucault developed a way in which an idea is expressed spatially. In an extension line, the concepts of utopia and heterotopia were created. Utopia is a space, which exists only in people’s thoughts. On the contrary, heterotopia exists in the reality, but it is a place, which is not only erased from people’s consciousness, but also provides a new way of existence, distinct from a general concept of space. In relation to variable, temporary and potential space concepts, it is a place, through which the chance of repression and the operation of power parameterized in the space are exposed.Hong’s installation work can be understood through this kind of space concepts. Her previous works focused on the physiology of space that is constructed, added, deconstructed and restructured depending on living convenience, especially looking at space concepts, which work as potentiality, live like a plant and practice. Fragmented space, which is emphasized in the previous works, is not confined to the relationship between part and whole and is produced by the parts as a whole. Her recent works become more deepen and expanded by moving her interest to the politics of space and the social economy of space. In addition, realistic and narrative aspects are more clarified and emphasized in her works. Hong’s works can be seen as a formal experiment, which discovers a new possible place for heterotopia, crossing over the problem of power, which pervades space, place, territory and boundary, and Deleuze’s practical logic of de-territorialization, which opposes the program of territory.

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